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1963 Willys Pickup - Whazat?

Posted in Features on March 1, 2009
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During the Ouray Jeep Jamboree (see "The San Juan Pucker Factor" elsewhere in this issue), a journalist's group was led by Parachute, Colorado's Bob Arnett. Bob's rig was impossible to miss, as the '63 Willys pickup was not only bathed in a gorgeous candy blue but also equipped with stem-to-stern upgrades that Willys never would have considered in its wildest dreams. There was no choice but to find out more.

The fables about finding a gem sitting unappreciated in a field are occasionally true, and that's exactly how Bob discovered his rig. "It was sitting in a field south of Grand Junction," Bob relates. "It had been sitting for 10 to 15 years, and I'd passed by it multiple times. One day, I decided to stop and take a closer look. I crawled through the fence and checked it out. It was a dull red color, but there wasn't any rust."

After perusing his potential prize, Bob approached the owner about buying it, and they settled on $250. When Bob returned with his trailer to load it up, the owner threw in several extra goodies. "It was pretty much just a cab and a frame in the field," he told us. "When I went to load it up, the owner started dragging out other parts and pieces from the barn. By the time he was finished, I had parts for almost a whole truck on my trailer." The only thing missing was a bed, which Bob tracked down and purchased elsewhere.

"I got home and my wife looked at it and asked, 'What are you going to do with that?'" Bob's reply: "Just watch!"

After two years of watching, Helen Arnett's question was answered in a more complete fashion. Bob's '63 Willys now stood on a full-width Dana 44 front axle and a full-width Dana 60 rear axle, each stuffed with a 4.56 ring and pinion set and an ARB Air Locker. In place of the wheezy stock engine, a 300hp small-block Chevy filled the space under the hood. A wide-ratio NV4500 five-speed replaced the stock tranny. Behind the transmission, the original Dana 300 transfer case was retained, but upgraded with an Advance Adapters output shaft and tailhousing.

Thanks to two years of hard work, Bob gets to drive the Willys instead of wrenching on it. "I don't have to touch it. I just get in and drive. It's got a 120-inch wheelbase, and it turns on a dime." A fixture of the Ouray Jeep Jamboree since the beginning, this is the 21st year Bob and his expertise have guided grizzled and greenhorn Jeepers alike along the expansive vistas that surround the town.

If you're driving along, see a parked vehicle and ask yourself, "Whazat?", it's a good idea to backtrack and take a closer look. "Whazat" just might be your next trail rig.

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